Domestic violence is secret few want to discuss openly. However, it is believed that close to four million children up to the age of 17 are exposed to domestic violence. These children, who are still evolving emotionally, may suffer long-term effects if they are not protected. The damage can linger long into adulthood – and even last a lifetime.
Any parent who is aware that his or her children are being placed in danger by domestic violence should not hesitate to have an attorney file a restraining order against the abuser. Your children depend on you for protection.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence can include any number of behaviors, including constant arguing, the need for constant control, intimidation, and threats of suicide or harm to the victim. Any behavior that evidences a need for control may foreshadow domestic violence.
Domestic Violence During Childhood
Children are by their nature vulnerable and dependent on the adults around them. When these same adults, whose duty it is to protect them, expose them to violence instead, it can cause unimaginable trauma. Many children are too afraid to even discuss it with anyone for fear of making the situation worse. In addition, to make sense of what is happening, children all-too-frequently convince themselves they are at fault. They may come to believe that abuse is deserved and/or normal. Teachers, friends, neighbors, and even close family members may remain unaware of the abuse due to the silence that surrounds it.
Adults should be aware of the warning signs of domestic abuse. Children can become anxious, depressed, and withdrawn from their usual activities. They may not eat or sleep normally and may become consumed with guilt or shame. And they can develop their own anger issues and begin to develop behavioral problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that in families that experience domestic abuse between parents, there is a more than a 50 percent chance that the children are also being abused. If the children manage to escape the physical abuse, they are still being subjected to an emotionally abusive environment. Even the parent who is a victim is usually unable to be emotionally present for the children, as he or she is struggling with his or her own problems.
Among these children, even if they are not being attacked physically, there are higher-than-normal incidents of learning problems, bed wetting, insomnia, and aggressive behavior (especially among boys).
Domestic Violence During Adolescent
The teenage years are difficult enough. Add domestic violence to the mix, and these teens will likely suffer from low esteem and high anxiety levels. They may do poorly in school and become involved with drugs or alcohol to help them cope.
Sadly, teenagers suffering from domestic violence are more likely to become bullies and abusers themselves as they turn demanding and controlling within their own relationships. For these teens on the edge, counseling is highly recommended.
Domestic Violence During Adulthood
Men who lived through domestic violence during their childhood may well reenact violent behavior toward others, especially women. They can turn into classic abusers themselves. They may also suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, and or stroke – all of which are stress-related issues.
Women who lived through domestic violence have a 50 percent greater chance of becoming victims of abuse themselves as this behavior is seen as normal and they blame themselves for any relationship problems. Such women are at risk for eating disorders, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Since they are frequently isolated from friends and family, they accept the abuse rather than get help.
How Can Abuse Be Stopped?
Professionals, especially medical and legal, need to learn to spot the signs of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can no longer remain a dirty secret. Offer to be there for co-workers and neighbors who show signs of suffering from domestic violence. If possible, contact the authorities.
Check on those believed to be involved in domestic abuse frequently. Use codes, if necessary. Agree on a pre-arranged place to meet. If possible, have available cash when the victim needs it. Abusers count and rely on secrecy and isolation. A caring friend can shine a light on the darkness that is domestic abuse and stop the vicious circle that so frequently begins in childhood.
Document any bruises and injuries, along with the circumstances and dates relating thereto.
Domestic violence is a family problem that can quickly become a societal problem. Those who notice signs need to speak up instead of turning away for the safety of everyone.
National Hotline for Domestic Violence: 800-799-7233
For Miami-Dade, Florida Domestic Violence Victim & Related Services:
24 Hour Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-500-1119; TTY: 1-800-621-4202
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); TTY: 1-800-787-3224
Florida Department of Children & Families: 1-800-96-ABUSE (22873), http://www.dcf.state.fl.us
Victim Response Inc/The Lodge (305) 693-1170, thelodgemiami.org
North Dade Victim Center (Safespace Shelter North) (305) 758-2546
South Dade Victim Center (Safespace Shelter South) (305) 247-4249
Coordinated Victims Assistance Center (CVAC): 2400 S. Dixie Hwy, Miami, FL 33133; (305) 285-5900
Survivor’s Pathway: 1801 Coral Way, Miami, FL 33145; (786) 275-4364
Clerk of Courts (DV Division)
Lawson E. Thomas Court House Center (main / downtown courthouse): 175 NW 1st Avenue, Miami, FL 33128 (mezzanine / M floor): (305) 349-5813
Hialeah Courthouse: (305) 520-4002
South Dade Government Center: (305) 252-5807
North Dade Justice Center: (305) 354-8736
Joseph Caleb Center: (305) 636-2415
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